As a career option within HR, it doesn’t come much tougher than diversity.
"You’ve got to be sensitive and able to empathise with people, but you’ve
also got to be prepared to be bashed and bruised," says CIPD diversity
adviser Dianah Worman. "You have to be resilient and have the resolve to
be a strategist and prioritise."
The role of diversity manager can be interpreted in a number of ways, but
whichever way you look at it, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
In its narrowest form, a diversity manager’s remit may be to look after
diversity in a specific area such as gender, race and disability, and it tends
to be typecast in this capacity.
At the leading edge, though, it broadens out to encompass all sorts of
"I see my role as ensuring that all Ford employees have the opportunity
to realise their potential," explains Kamaljeet Jandu, diversity manager
for Ford of Britain.
"You can’t just limit that to, say, women and ethnic minorities, you
have to include everyone, and everyone has a role."
For Jandu, who has a background working for trade unions (he was previously
in the equal rights department of the TUC and before that a researcher at the
TGWU), his typical day will include meeting diversity councils from one of the
Ford plants and/or meeting employment relations managers.
Diversity managers deal with "big agendas", says Worman and
whether there are several people in the department (Ford has 10 people
responsible for all locations in Europe) or they are in a department of one, it
is important that they have support from the top.
This is vital because demands are made on the diversity manager from every
level of the company – you’ll be expected to have an opinion and a solution to
their problems, whether it’s a line manager, a recruitment manager, senior
executive or trade union official.
Although being a diversity manager requires soft skills, like the ability to
empathise, and it is equally important to be well-versed in the business side
of the organisation.
Increasingly a link is being made between product and brand, customer base
and employees. If a company’s products are designed, built, marketed and sold
by a well-rounded, diversified workforce, this will translate through to brand
"Of course it’s about being an employer of choice and doing the right
thing, but diversity also has to be rooted in the business agenda," says
"If our customer base identifies with Ford and its products, it’s
because we have an effective diversity programme."
Jandu’s sentiments are echoed by the diversity manager of Ford-owned Land
Rover, Donya Urwin, who describes product and brand as the fourth corner in her
"In one corner you need the necessary leadership, behaviour and
infrastructure in place to bring diversity into focus, in another you need a
modern workplace with all the necessary policies and procedures that will allow
an organisation to respond to variety in the workforce, in the third one you
have the management and retention of the talent and in the fourth you have
product and brand, the external facing bit.
"I believe that if you have the first three in place, the final one
should almost take care of itself," she says.
Diversity managers require a mix of abilities that aren’t found in everyone.
Clearly Jandu’s training as an economist, mixed with his knowledge and
sensitivity to workplace issues gleaned from his union work, has given him the
right kind of make-up for the job.
Similarly, Urwin’s successful track record as a business manager rather than
exclusively HR has induced the right kind of skills set and sensibilities.
But both stress that one of the main requirements of the job is a sense of
fairness, justice and integrity. "People who can do this kind of job have
to be highly motivated and have a sense of equality," says Jandu.
And Urwin adds, "You’ve got to want to do a job like this and be interested
Evidence suggests that those who do fit the bill are amply rewarded. Worman
reckons that at the very top end (and she stresses "very top"),
salaries could be more than £90,000, but on the whole they can be expected to
be around £30-35,000.
Where diversity managers go afterwards isn’t easy to assess. Because of the
demands, some diversity managers say it is something that is best done for two
to three years.
Certainly it provides a good basis for which to move into a general business
management role, but equally it provides excellent experience with which to
re-enter HR in a generalist role at a more senior level.
Donya Urwin, diversity manager at Land Rover
Donya Urwin has been part of more
than one successful team in her time, but she says whenever management has come
in and scrutinised the teams it finds no magic ingredient.
"We’ve all just worked well together because we’ve
communicated, debated, discussed, compromised, listened to each other and so
on. And that’s what diversity is all about."
Urwin has a solid background in HR – she was previously policy
manager at Marks & Spencer and before that worked in a variety of
customer-facing senior management roles – but she has never seen herself as a
pure HR person.
"I’ve always considered myself a more general business
manager," she says, adding that she doesn’t necessarily think diversity
should sit within the function. "It fits into HR in that some of the tools
and techniques it uses are sensibly aligned to the department, but I see myself
as more of an ombudsman."
In her role as diversity manager at Land Rover, where she has
been for six months, she reports directly to the HR director, but has what she
describes as "a dotted line to the CEO". She says, "I have a one
to one with him every month."
When she arrived at Land Rover, she was given a blank sheet of
paper. Since joining, she has initiated a major organisational diversity
review, including employee surveys, focus groups and internal councils.
Urwin is big on listening to what staff want and the review
will provide invaluable workforce feedback. "I’m a great believer in
flexible working, but I don’t know if it’s what the workforce wants. Everyone
is different – it’s a case of finding out what makes everyone tick and holding
things up to the light.
"You must be aware that you are working with variety all
of the time, and not just think of diversity in terms of race, gender and
disability. What a mother of four children wants and needs, for instance, will
be very different to the demands of someone in their 50s."
Urwin’s four corners approach identifies a strong link with the
workforce and product, but she also emphasises the importance of understanding
the mechanics of how an organisation works and how it produces and sells its
For this reason, she says, it’s not for her to decide whether
flexible working is right because it may not work well in a production
environment (she is also waiting to hear what the workforce thinks of it, of
But it is her job to provide the managers with a script on the
subject to go through with employees. "It’s easy to be evangelical and
moral in this job, but if you don’t know the reality of how cars are made and
sold, you won’t get anywhere, which is why I think that working closely with
those who are in the frontline is vital in this job."
So would she recommend her job to others? The upside, she says,
is that you feel like a pioneer every day because everything you do is about
change and transformation, but this can be draining. "Sometimes you’re
creating tension," she says.
"But it is rewarding and satisfying. It’s the sort of job
I’d probably still like to be doing in five years’ time, but I don’t know if it
would be a good idea to do it that long.
"It may be good to do for three or four years and it
certainly gives you the experience to then go on and be an even better business
manager or HR professional."